In Catholic Social Teaching we frequently refer to a three step process:
1. Observe (See)
The political analysts and pundits seem to make a habit of spinning stories to their way of thinking. Today is no exception. The results of the criminal investigation by the FBI into Hillary Clinton's e-mail scandal were released this morning in a prepared statement made by the FBI Director. Objective journalism can be difficult to find in the modern era when there is much to be gained or lost depending upon how one narrates a story. Thus, it becomes even more essential that people of faith are able to utilize certain analytical tools to be better informed and equipped to discern with clarity and prudence. The three step process listed above may help.
It is my hope that FBI Director James B. Comey was honest with the American people today when he said that the investigation conducted in regard to the e-mail scandal of the former Secretary of State was done honestly, competently, and independently. I will never have access to all of the information that he had to reach his conclusion. Subsequently, I am hoping his analysis of the facts is accurate and that his integrity is not being compromised due to outside pressures or other circumstances surrounding this case.
With that being said, there are times when I can't simply take things at face value. Unfortunately, there are people less than honest in their dealings with others. While I do not want to be cynical and skeptical in everything that pertains to the government, the citizens of this country have been given quite a few reasons to have doubts about the credibility of many of our leaders. Is this another one of those moments? I will base my personal conclusion upon what I determine through the three-step process.
In step one we ask ourselves about what we have observed. What do I know about the issue at hand? What specific facts can I cite about the issue or the experience? What have I learned through observations? How do I feel about this issue or experience? How does it touch me personally?
It is necessary to name what is happening that is causing me concern. After I carefully and intentionally examine the primary data of a situation I am better able to sense the lived reality of the individuals and/or communities involved. What are the people in this situation doing, feeling, and saying? What is happening to them? How do they respond?
After we observe a situation it is time to judge. The word "judge" is often viewed in a negative manner. In this instance it is used in a positive tone simply indicating an analysis of the situation to make an informed judgement about it. This is where Catholic Social Teaching really comes into play. We do not simply engage in sociological analysis. It also includes theological reflection while asking a multitude of sociological questions.
Why does the situation exist? What are the root causes? We answer these two questions by delving deeper into some additional categories.
What are the economic factors involved? This provides a picture about who owns things? Who controls the situation? Who pays? Who receives? Why?
What are the political factors involved? Who decides? For whom do they decide? How are decisions being made? Who is left out of the process? Why?
What are the social factors? Who is left out and who is included? Why?
What are the historical factors? What past events influence the situation today?
What are the cultural factors involved? What do people believe? Who influences what people believe? What values are evident?
Sacred Scriptures and Catholic Social Teaching equip us to look at these events and situations through the lens of theological reflection. How do biblical values and Catholic Social Teaching help us to see this reality in a different way? What key principles from Catholic Social Teaching apply to this situation?
Finally, insights from the sociological analysis and theological reflection lead to ideas for action. What actions need to be taken to change the situation or to address the root causes of a problem? Is additional research needed?
How would you transform the structures that produced this situation? How would you address the relationships involved? How can you act to empower others impacted by this situation? Are we able to plan and carry out actions aimed at transforming the social structures that contribute to suffering and injustice?
We may feel far removed from the powerful and elite of this country. A sense of resignation may enter into our way of thinking. What is the point of even trying to make a difference? How can we really impact anything from our little corner of the world?
I want to suggest to you that we make a difference by investing in one person at a time. It is called discipleship. I may not wield great power in political circles or have control over an FBI investigation. I may not have the detailed information about the rich and famous that other people in high places possess. However, I will observe, judge, and act based upon what is at my disposal, and I will do so diligently with as much integrity as possible.
What do you think of today's announcement viewed through the lens of sociological analysis and theological reflection? What have you observed? How do you analyze and judge this information? What will you do about it?